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Visions from The Catacombs, Week Before May 18 2014

John 14:1-14

14“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

What I am Learning:

First century people were well acquainted with the role of a “patron.” A patron was a wealthy person who would offer support and benefits to others in the community.

Patrons would have agents who would act on their behalf, as they could easily be overwhelmed by all the need around them. People who benefitted from the patron’s wealth were called clients.

When Jesus tells his disciples that he will make a place for them in the Father’s house, he is not talking about heaven. He is saying that even though he is leaving that they will now be made agents of the Father because of Jesus. This is why the text says, “you will do even greater things than these.”

Many people have seen this text as Jesus going to arrange our condo’s in heaven for when we die. This is not what this text is about. The word “place” here means something more like “placement” – a position of responsibility within the household of God. Jesus is telling his disciples that they are indispensible as agents of God’s generosity and goodness to everyone.

Without agents the patron could not share his abundance and contribute to the wellbeing of his community.

Without agents in the world God cannot share God’s abundance for the healing and creation of the world.

This text is not so much about what we get from Jesus as good religious consumers, but about our public role in God’s healing and creation of the earth.

Many are troubled by the exclusive sounding “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” The word “way” is very important here. This word “way” implies the whole story of Jesus in the gospel of John - it means that what Jesus does in this gospel truly represents God and is of God.

We see examples of this “way” when we see Jesus bless a poor family with more wine for their wedding, when he heals people, when we deeply respects a Samaritan woman and her village, when he stops a crowd from stoning a woman, when he engages the religious authorities, when he courageously confronts the injustice in Jerusalem, when he is raised from the dead.

This way includes two main things:

The way of Jesus is the way of radical inclusivity of all people: the poor, the sick, an accused woman, a Samaritan woman and her village, the blind, the dead, the Chief Priests, the Romans. Jesus includes everyone.

The way of Jesus includes a resistance to dominating/submitting culture.

The sad truth is that many Christians have read this text and used it to dominate and bully others into believing like them.

This is not the way of Jesus.

The way of Jesus is radical inclusivity and resistance to domination. Inclusivity is the only way to the Father.

Inclusivity is the only way we humans are going to thrive.